October 05, 2005

From today's review of Serenity, published in the local university student newspaper:

Serenity now ... or not
Cheesy characters kill film's plot

By Malvina Filipkowski (rating: two stars out of five)

Serenity is an adventurous, artfully modern science-fiction film composed of elaborate settings and an interesting plot.

However, the film's attempt to use multiple genres and its severe lack of suspense makes Serenity about as believable as an old Power Rangers rerun. If cast members, with their excessively corny personalities, had not spit out cheap one-liners in times of panic, the film might have had a fighting chance.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the man who blessed us with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity is intended as the sequel to Whedon's more recent sci-fi flop, Firefly. Existing 500 years in the future, Serenity is an independent warship inhabited by a crew of impoverished thieves who rely on crooked business and Captain Malcolm Reno's (Nathan Fillion) guidance to get through the day.

However, when Malcolm decides to hire 17-year-old schizophrenic telepath River (Summer Glau), and her older brother Simon, to help guide the ship in its trades, Serenity quickly becomes an attractive target for a hired government assassin.

Turns out, the troubled girl had been abused by a local government (The Alliance) in a series of research tests that made her a dangerous weapon intended for warfare. The Alliance, fearing the disclosure of valuable data, decides to chase her down. The discovery of River's immeasurable power leaves Serenity's crew facing a tough decision, which will not only determine River's fate, but that of an entire universe of innocent hostages.

The cast of Serenity is as random and useless to the plot as the ridiculous costumes. The film kills its own climaxes through unnecessary feedback on the part of Serenity's crew, as Whedon tries -- unsuccessfully -- to incorporate elements of both horror and comedy.

Moreover, the cast exhibits several disturbing familiarities to an array of cheesy pop-culture icons that should never have existed in the first place. For example, as the Serenity's dorky and unimportant mechanic, actress Jewel Staite's mannerisms sadly mirror the needy persona of Jan Brady. Yes, our worst fears have come true -- the Brady Bunch has made it into space.

And to top it off, the film's indirect antagonists (a colony of cannibalistic barbarians) look nearly identical to the zombies in The Night of the Living Dead.

Yet the most alarming resemblance is River. Her character is a ridiculous combination of Kill Bill's Uma Thurman and Carrie's Sissy Spacek.

Whedon's inexperience in film production is fairly evident through his amateurish choice of characters and ineffective use of dialogue. However, considering his budget, the film's special effects and extravagant scenes are a treat for the eyes.

And while the cast of characters may be obnoxious, the plot is still reasonably interesting -- until the end of the film when the audience is left in complete and astounding shock. Unfortunately, the reason for this is not a surprising twist ending, but one which leaves the audience kicking itself for paying money to watch Serenity.

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